Yesterday, I mentioned that it is God who made the first sacrifice to cover our shame, and it is God who made the last sacrifice to assure our salvation. But there are many other sacrifices that must be made, and these fall to us.
And I'm not talking about rams, lambs, and male goats.
What I'm talking about are the thousands of decisions we have to make in our lives, the decisions either to follow God or to turn away from Him. The decisions to believe and to trust or to fear and to scheme.
We actually spend a pretty good amount of time talking about some of this in our churches. We talk about what it means when we say one good yes to God, when we agree to go along with His plans. It's not always pretty, of course; there are consequences to our yeses. One good yes to God is a thousand painful nos to something else. And those nos are hard ones. We won't pretend that they're not.
But what about when God tells you to say no?
What about when God tells you to turn away? I'm not even really talking about sinful things here. I'm not referring just to the bad things. It's easy - well, easier - to say no to sin if God is asking us to do so. And obviously, we expect Him to lead us away from the things that are no good for us. But what about when God tells you to turn away from something good?
It happens all the time. Something comes up, some opportunity or some chance or some other very good thing, and it looks like everything you ever could have wanted, everything you've ever prayed for, everything you'd give to you if you were God. Then you hear this little whisper, just a little wisp of the wind, and it'd be easy to ignore if it weren't so darned clear.
For me, I may get this whisper only once and from there, it turns into a nagging feeling that's attached to whatever the good opportunity is. Like a little kid who sees the cookies on the counter but knows I've been told I can't have them. No one is necessarily there, standing over me, guarding my hands from touching the cookies, but there's just this little nagging feeling inside my heart that knows it'd be wrong to sneak one.
The question is: in a moment like this, can you make the sacrifice? Can you let go of what seems like an incredible opportunity or a good chance? Can you say the faithful no?
Well, yes, you might say; if God tells me to say no then I know that something better is coming. I can say no to something good in the promise of something better.
Isn't that cute....
The faithful no cannot depend upon a promised yes. The promised yes doesn't always exist. They don't always come as a package deal. Sometimes, what rests just before you, no matter how good it is, is the wrong thing for you. For whatever reason. Not because there's something better around the next corner but because right here, right now, this good thing is not, after all, so good. Not for you. Not now. The faithful no requires that you turn away from this good thing without any promise of what you're turning toward, except to know that God Himself is good and He's told you to turn away.
Can you say the faithful no here?
We talk so much about what it means to say yes to God, about all the little nos we have to say in the very same breath. But the faithful no is a bit different. When we say a faithful no, we say one no. And in the same breath, we say only one yes. Our faithful no is an affirmation that we believe God is who He says He is, regardless of what He does or is doing. Because our faithful no to one thing is not a yes to something else; it's a yes to Someone Else, to God Himself. And that's it.
But you can't turn this around. You can't make your yes the thing, not when a faithful no is required. When God tells you to say no, you cannot first say yes to God; you have to first say no and let your yes echo through the now-empty space.
So back to the question: can you say a faithful no if God asks you to? Can you sacrifice the good things on the altar?